Two Fatalities in One Night an Unprecedented Wake-Up Call

UPDATE Tues., June 28, 2016: Please write Mayor Lee and demand a specific action plan to improve the safety of biking in our city. San Franciscans deserve safe streets, not vague promises. The tragedies that took Heather and Kate this week demonstrate yet again that the City is delivering too little, too late.

Please join us in honoring Heather and Kate by demanding action to prevent more innocent people from dying on our streets.

Write Mayor Lee

To: mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org 
CC: janice@sfbike.org
Subject: Honor Heather, Kate with immediate safety improvements

Text for your consideration and personalization: In 2016, San Francisco is on pace to set a new all-time high in traffic fatalities. The evening of Wed., June 22 is an unprecedented reminder of how much work is still needed to eliminate traffic deaths.

Enough is enough. I am writing to you today to demand an action plan as our city’s top leader to deliver the change we need on our streets to make San Francisco a safe place to bike.

+++++

Our hearts are broken today in the wake of an unprecedented night of tragedies for people biking in San Francisco. Words cannot do justice to the profound sympathies we have for the two women who died in last night’s collisions, their families, their friends and everyone affected.

Today, the people of San Francisco need Mayor Ed Lee, the SFMTA, the SFPD and other City leaders to recognize their roles in permitting tragedies like these to continue happening on our streets. Enough is enough.

What we know at this moment is that both fatal crashes were hit-and-runs on streets identified by the City as high-injury corridors: one on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park near 30th Avenue, and one at the intersection of Howard and Seventh Streets.

Both women were biking legally on known, popular bike routes and were victims of hit-and-run drivers who were speeding. In Golden Gate Park, a speeding driver entered the opposite lane of traffic while attempting to pass a car, colliding head-on with the person biking. In SoMa, a driver ran a red light on Howard Street, colliding with a person who was biking through the intersection at Seventh Street.

The suspect in the SoMa collision attempted to flee, crashed the vehicle, has been apprehended by SFPD, and charged with vehicular manslaughter. The suspect in the Golden Gate Park collision fled the scene, abandoned the vehicle in the park and is still at large. There is an anonymous tip line to assist the SFPD in their investigation at (415) 575-4444.

Yesterday’s collisions are not isolated incidents. They are part of a pattern in San Francisco that City leaders are failing to adequately address.

The City’s goal of eliminating all severe injuries and traffic fatalities is achievable. Like so many tragedies before them, yesterday’s crashes happened on bike routes identified by the Department of Health as high-injury corridors. Speeding is implicated in both crashes and continues to be the number one cause of severe injuries and traffic fatalities in our city.

Today, the SFPD continues failing everyone who uses San Francisco’s streets. Two years ago, the police department promised to dedicate at least half of all traffic citations to the five most dangerous violations, including speeding. They have not yet proven up to the challenge of delivering on their own promise.

The SFMTA needs to urgently accelerate improvements to our bike network and realize the Bike Strategy fully by 2018. Both of yesterday’s tragedies occurred on high-injury corridors which the SFMTA encourages people to bike as part of the City’s official bike routes. Both corridors have woefully inadequate infrastructure. Howard and Seventh Streets offer unprotected bike lanes, and an entirely unprotected and unpainted intersection. The western section of JFK Drive does not even have sharrows, let alone protected bike lanes which could have prevented yesterday’s tragedy there. Neither of these high-injury corridors has improvements planned for this year. We know what our city’s streets need; we need the SFMTA to deliver.

Ultimately, we need leadership at the top, and Mayor Ed Lee is failing as a leader. Where we need transformative safety improvements and transformative leadership, we have vague promises and a void of action.

As the popularity of biking rises faster than that of any other transportation mode, we need protected bike lanes on JFK Drive. And across SoMa, we need physically protected bike lanes and intersections. These crashes were preventable, and the City should urgently act to see that such tragedies are not repeated.

In addition to improvements on these streets, we need citywide improvements to make the high-injury network obsolete. This is an incomplete list of the streets identified by the City as high-injury corridors where the SFMTA has no plans to deliver safer streets for people biking this year:

  • JFK Drive
  • Kezar Drive
  • Geary Boulevard
  • Park Presidio Boulevard
  • Cross Over Drive
  • Lincoln Way
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Taraval Street
  • Sloat Boulevard
  • Skyline Boulevard
  • Gellert Drive
  • Lake Merced Boulevard
  • 19th Avenue
  • Sickles Avenue
  • Alemany Boulevard
  • Palou Avenue
  • Third Street
  • San Bruno Avenue
  • Bayshore Boulevard
  • Industrial Street
  • Mission Street
  • Cesar Chavez Street
  • 24th Street
  • Guerrero Street
  • South Van Ness Avenue
  • Valencia Street
  • Potrero Avenue
  • 18th Street
  • 17th Street
  • 16th Street
  • Dolores Street
  • 15th Street
  • Octavia Boulevard
  • Haight Street
  • Turk Street
  • Fulton Street
  • McAllister Street
  • Grove Street
  • Eddy Street
  • Ellis Street
  • O’Farrell Street
  • Post Street
  • Sutter Street
  • Bush Street
  • Pine Street
  • California Street
  • Stockton Street
  • Broadway
  • Columbus Avenue
  • Kearny Street
  • Bay Street
  • The Embarcadero
  • Fourth Street
  • Fifth Street
  • Sixth Street
  • King Street
  • Townsend Street
  • Harrison Street
  • Folsom Street
  • Howard Street

Hollow words from City leaders will not suffice. The people of San Francisco deserve safe streets. They deserved them yesterday. And they deserve urgent steps today by City leaders to deliver them as soon as humanly possible.

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